Johnson & Johnson Discontinues Talc-Based Baby Powder
The company said the decision to replace talc with cornstarch in its baby powder products wasn’t related to safety concerns raised in thousands of lawsuits.
Johnson & Johnson will stop making and selling talc-based baby powder next year worldwide. The company stopped selling talc-based baby powder in the U.S. in 2020 and is still in the midst of navigating over 38,000 lawsuits claiming that the company hid the cancer risks associated with the product. J&J claims that the decision to move from talc to cornstarch isn’t due to said lawsuits and simply claims it is an effort to streamline production.
“This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation, and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends,” the company said in an official statement.
The company confirmed its position that the cosmetic talc used is safe. “We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”
The 38,000 lawsuits state otherwise. Plaintiffs claim that the talc used in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder caused cancer due to asbestos contamination. Investigative reporting from Reuters also revealed that the company knew that its talc tested positive for small amounts of asbestos from 1971 to the early 2000s. Internal memos from the company also revealed that global brand successfully dissuaded U.S. regulators from limiting asbestos in cosmetic products or pursuing scientific research on any potential side effects of talc.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and has been classified as such by the International Agency of Research for Cancer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2020, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.69 billion in damages to 22 people who linked their ovarian cancer diagnoses to one of the company’s talc-based baby powder products.